Instead of hopping on a plane for a summer vacation, many American families are choosing to stay closer to home this year amid coronavirus. As we all search for a break from being cooped up inside, camping—with its fresh air, hiking and s’mores—is emerging as one of the most popular choices. It’s also being listed as one of the least risky activities to engage in during the pandemic.
“Using normal precautions for COVID-19, camping is one of the safest activities your family can do this summer,” says Dr. William Johnson, former Vice Chairman of Microbiology at the University of Iowa. The overall consensus is that many outdoor activities are low risk while having high reward both mentally and physically. “Follow the CDC guidelines and the tips below to ensure that your family has a safe and enjoyable time under the stars,” says Johnson.
1. Follow the rules
Most states continue to be under a safer at home order which means finding a campground close to home is certainly the best option. With that in mind, educate yourself on the rules and current restrictions of the area you’re camping at—it varies from county to county.
Be sure to follow all instructions to keep your family and others safe. This may mean wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and restricting the use of off-limit areas or places that people tend to congregate. Some places you may want to visit (think national parks) may require entry reservations purchased ahead of time.
2. Book camping sites with plenty of space between sites
Campground websites often have sitemaps and actual campground photos you can view to choose sites that allow for proper distancing. State parks, national forest and BLM-managed land tend to have great space between sites. Be sure to use the designated tent or RV pads and be cognizant of where your site begins and ends.
3. Try to camp during the week
If possible, book a camping trip during the week. Campgrounds tend to be less crowded during the weekdays than the weekends. This gives you the chance to easily follow current procedures in place.
4. Prepay for your site and extras ahead of time
Campgrounds are allowing guests to prepay for sites ahead of time and skip the check in to avoid close contact. Confirmation emails allow for hosts to let campers know their designated site number ahead of time, so campers can just head straight there. If there are any extra costs (a fishing license perhaps), most of those can also be purchased online ahead of time, too.
5. Bring your own supplies
Being self-sufficient is the safest way to be when camping. Plan on eating all meals at your campsite and pack all the necessary food. Bring additional water to clean dishes at your site and for washing hands. Sanitizer, wet wipes, soap and extra paper towels are also smart things to pack. Bring trash bags for collecting and keeping trash at your site. Dispose of your trash at home if possible.
Many campgrounds are also asking campers to bring their own toilet paper, soap and sanitizer for use in public facilities. Some shared areas including bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities and picnic tables may be off-limits based on the campground. To be sure you are prepared, consider bringing solar showers, a bucket/portable toilet for the bathroom, and your own camp table and chairs. If allowed (it varies by state and campground), bring your own firewood to avoid having to purchase in town or in person at the campground.
6. Pick low-risk activities to engage in
Outdoor activity and camping go hand and hand. According to the CDC, the lowest risk activities include ones where there aren’t too many people, where you can maintain distance and where you can limit the length of exposure to others. Try lower risk activities like bike riding, hiking, fishing, or spending time on the water in a boat, kayak or on a SUP. Choose trails to hike or bike on that aren’t the most popular, or hit up popular trails during non-peak times such as morning or evening. Bring along masks and be prepared to put them on when six feet of distance is not possible.
You may want to also bring your own equipment including watercraft and fishing poles. Be sure to maintain proper distance along the shore for fishing and don’t congregate when getting on and off watercraft. And don’t forget to wash your hands after activity.
7. Invest in entertainment
It is easy to hike, kayak or fish with your own equipment while giving proper distance, but other activities offered at campgrounds might not offer the same safety. Bring your own entertainment to enjoy at your tent site—things like bubbles, board games, balls and frisbees will keep kids busy. Lawn games from ladder ball to cornhole now come in travel sizes and are sold at major stores and online.
*This article appears on mommynearest.com.